Watching the Accra floods unfold across my TV and across social media timelines, a sadness and anger triggered within me. And frustration. And a realisation. As much as we love Ghana and for all we have achieved in recent years, there are home truths we’ve not been paying enough attention to. The cedi’s value has become a shambolic mess. Oil we apparently struck a few years back – what happened to the money? Infant/maternal mortality is another simmering issue which charities such as the GUBA Foundation are helping bring to the spotlight. The quality of schooling is poor, as has been recently publicised.
And don’t get me started on dumsor, an issue which is proving to be a terminal illness to business around the country and is as tiresome as the daily debate around it and the attempts to resolve it.
In June 2015, The Wall Street Journal noted the following – ‘[Accra is] perhaps the continent’s best example of an urban middle class. In 2011 it was the 2nd-fastest growing economy on EARTH…but [even then] below the city, its infrastructure was crumbling. Power has been off TWO-THIRDS of the time since January, because until recently Accra received almost all of its electricity from a 49-year old hydrodam that hadn’t been getting enough rain. Stop lights are frequently out, jamming up roads that haven’t been broadened. Ports are perpetually backlogged. And the city sewers are especially old…many of them dating back to the British colonial rule.’
That excerpt illuminates the fact that the floods in Accra, which produced images akin to a Hollywood disaster film, was a disaster waiting to happen – a landmine lying in wait beneath our foundations, for the right amount of pressure to trigger things to explode and implode.
And this is the crux of the problem. There are issues in Ghana that have been there from the days of Kwame Nkrumah. That’s not good enough. Nkrumah planned to get the Akosombo dam built to match demand at the time; not to meet demand in the future! The dam wasn’t *the* dream; it was the *beginnings* of a dream, for Ghana to start being more self-sufficient, stable and increasingly productive. The issue is we’ve accepted that standard as our ceiling. That standard was set 60 years ago you know. 60 years…
You see, my issue is that it’s not every day ‘build a Trasacco Valley’ or West Hills Mall to act like Ghana is ‘ballin’’, thinking that’s indicative of success. It’s not. Ghana rather needs to prioritise and concentrate on things which may seem simple, but as these floods have shown, are vital. We need to focus on investing and developing the fundamentals.
Things like electricity, water, roads and transport, education, hospitals and healthcare services…
…but no. We want to make ourselves look better than we are by building residential areas where only the rich & powerful can afford to live, and building malls where only the rich can afford to shop.
Ghana is focused on building its roof when we haven’t even finished laying the foundations – and that’s a crying shame. That’s why we have cholera outbreaks in Accra, why large swathes of the country go without power for days. And that’s why we had a situation like the flood crisis – it was a system failure more than a natural disaster, exposing the fact that despite the energy and resources we’ve put into paving our roof, our house is infested and the foundations aren’t sound.
Our priorities need to change. For we need to realise the truths and stop the cyclical behaviours which fail to demand accountability from those in power and allow us to become complacent and accept inefficiencies as the status quo. Only then, will we finally be set free and realise the perfectness of the Independence dream.
By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)